Prep volleyball: Gwinn racks up the kills in three-set victory at Westwood

ISHPEMING – Gwinn not only brought the big hitters, but made them count in a volleyball match at Westwood High School on Tuesday night.

The Patriots couldn’t match their firepower and had to look for some other advantage, but were unable to find it as the Modeltowners prevailed, 25-20, 25-16, 25-18.

“We know we had to get the ball on our side, then have the hitters put it down when we needed to,” said senior Katie Aho, who was among four Gwinn players who had either five or six kills.

Aho, at 5-foot-9, had a half-dozen kills while 5-7 sophomore Nicole Usher and seniors Shelby Talsma (6-3) and Chelsea Moton (5-9) each had five. The Modeltowners held a 25-11 edge in kills for the match.

Using either their height or jumping ability, all four were able to elevate above the top of the net and pick and choose among hard slams or petite little dekes to outfox Westwood.

Led by their tallest player, 5-10 senior Mya Maanika, Westwood tried to keep the Modeltowners at bay with blocks up high and digs down low. Maanika finished with her team’s only three blocks, while the Pats had 60 digs, nearly twice as many as Gwinn.

That defense worked well for awhile, or at least until Gwinn (4-1 overall, 3-1 Mid-Peninsula Conference) shook off its usual early jitters.

“We have these slow starts,” GHS coach Stephanie Bahrman said, “but tonight, we were also trying some new things, putting girls in different positions. It’s a matter of trial and error.

“So we did what we came to do, and that’s get the win.”

The home team jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set on a variety of Gwinn errors before the Modeltowners just as quickly tied it 5-5 and took a 7-6 lead.

The momentum swings weren’t over just yet, however, as Westwood (0-5 M-PC) rallied to take leads of 10-7, 12-9 and 14-12.

“We kept fighting back,” WHS coach Janine Chapman said. “We’ve just got to be there on our coverage. Some plays were good and some were bad, but I think we were improving throughout.”

The set’s most important rally was the last, fueled by Gwinn keeping the ball in play while junior Erin Reetz served five straight times to get her team a 17-14 advantage.

The Modeltowners didn’t hesitate after that, trailing for the last time all night in the second set at 3-2, which was when Aho put that game away with 12 straight serves.

Only three could be considered aces, the rest credited to well placed hitting on the part of her teammates.

“We played smart as a team,” Aho said.

“What hurt us was when No. 6 (Aho) served well in that stretch,” Chapman said.

Westwood couldn’t pull closer than six points the rest of that set, and fell down 7-2 to start the final set before getting back in it.

Chapman was pleased with Maanika, who had a team-high three kills, and the efforts of some other players who switched positions due to an injury to junior outside hitter Elayne Larmour.

“Mya definitely stepped it up for us, and she was able to read some of what their girls were doing since she’s played with them before,” her coach said. “That’s the most I’ve seen out of our blocking this season.

“We also moved one of our setters (senior Miranda Roose) to outside hitter and had two other girls move in as setters. Cristine Larson ended up taking over by the third set.”

Roose had two service aces and two kills, while Larson had six of her team’s nine assists.

The Patriots came back to win the JV match, 23-25, 25-23, 25-10.

Gwinn travels to Negaunee at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, while both of Tuesday’s combatants will participate in the Marquette Invitational that begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.